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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Under the microscope: Dr. Radha Perumal Ramasamy produces flame-retardant polymer and improves 3D visualization of cells

Dr. Radha Perumal Ramasamy, above, has returned to Stony Brook after graduating in 2006. In one year, he has filed two patents and published a paper. (PHOTO CREDIT: RADHA PERUMAL RAMASAMY)

Every other week, Ruchi Shah, a junior biology major, will take a look at Stony Brook-related science and research news.

In one year, Dr. Radha Perumal Ramasamy, a visiting scholar at Stony Brook University, published one paper, filed two patents and became a guest editor for a journal, all while pursuing research in energy materials and bionanosciences.

Born in Chennai, India, Ramasamy said he remembers visiting the Institute of Mathematical Sciences as a child and reading on the wall, saying, “The pursuit of science is at its best when it is a part of the way of life.” He said he used this quote as motivation as he began to pursue a career in science.

Ramasamy graduated from Stony Brook University in 2006 with a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering, completed his postdoctoral studies at Duke University and Pennsylvania State University and returned to India, where he is currently an assistant professor of physics at Anna University.

When Ramasamy first heard about the Raman Post-doctoral Fellowship, a program which funds Indian scientists to do research in the United States, he knew he wanted to come back to Stony Brook University.

“One major reason why I chose to come back to Stony Brook is because over my Ph.D. years, I had the opportunity to interact with some very good professors here,” Ramasamy said.

“They are great mentors and I knew coming back would make it easy for me to start research quickly,” Ramasamy said.

Once at Stony Brook, Ramasamy began working to create a fire-retardant polymer that would help reduce fire and fire-related injuries.

In collaboration with Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, a distinguished professor of biomaterials and engineering at Stony Brook University, Ramasamy altered concentrations of graphene in the polymer polypropylene in an effort to create a substance that would not catch on fire.

Ramasamy used a technique called dielectric spectroscopy, in which the designed molecule is subjected to a plate field. Through studying the responses of the polymer to the applied field, Ramasamy was able to better understand the characteristics of the materials.

Ramasamy found that the polymer he characterized is not only a fire retardant, but it also has applications for usage in the heat exchangers of vehicles and in batteries.

“The polymer is a chemically more inert and environmentally more friendly material for battery electrodes,” Ramasamy said.

When Ramasamy applied a low frequency field that was less than 10 Hz to the polymer, he found that as the graphene concentration increased, the material became a negative dielectric constant material.

“These negative dielectric constant materials are also called metamaterials,” Ramasamy said. “It’s a new class of materials that is very recent and they have negative refractive indexes. Most materials we have are positive refractive index materials like glass and water. The negative refractive index of metamaterials is thought to lead to things like invisibility.”

In addition to his work with polymers, Ramasamy also developed hydrogels that allow for the 3D visualization of cells, improving upon cell culture, which allows for 2D visualization of cells.

“The disadvantage is that the cells that grow in 2D and the drugs that people develop on 2D cell culture are not necessarily the same as those that grow in the tissue because in the tissue they are all growing in a 3D form,” Ramasamy said.

In collaboration with Dr. Peter Brink, professor and chairman of the department of physiology and biophysics at Stony Brook University, Ramasamy developed hydrogels using his previous experience with self-collapsing gels that he developed while in India.

The hydrogels are made of proteins that have a surface of micropores that provide a suitable environment for cells to grow in 3D.

Various cell species, including HeLa, PC3 and Hek293, grew in spheroids in the protein hydrogels.

“When we first saw the spheroids, that was a very, very exciting moment,” Ramasamy said. “We had been looking for them for weeks and that was the beginning of something very good. It is an important contribution because I could see that it could be used to make the life of grad students and researchers easier and it is also less expensive.”

Ramasamy and his collaborators have filed for patents on both the polypropylene polymer and the protein hydrogel.

Ramasamy emphasized the importance of teamwork in his success and will be returning to India in November when his fellowship ends. He plans to continue research with gels and polymers.

“The world has done so much for me, and the least I can do for the world is do my best,” Ramasamy said.

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